The South Carolina Offense is Stuck in Neutral

The South Carolina offense

The South Carolina offense is stuck in neutral at the moment. After back-to-back losses to open their conference slate things are not where they need to be. The Gamecocks have failed to score an offensive touchdown in the first half in each of their last three games. The production in the second half has improved each time, but this team cannot continue to play dead to start games. The defense has been excellent this season and had a brilliant performance wasted on Saturday by disappointing play on the other side of the ball.

The South Carolina Offense is Stuck in Neutral

In the last three games, the Gamecocks have seemingly just been spinning their wheels early in the contest. They have failed to score on their opening drive in three of their first four games. Slow starts are not only happening in games as a whole but on individual drives. Shane Beamer’s team has been very poor on first downs in 2021, with the running game struggling to gain traction. They have seemingly been behind the chains all season long. This has the South Carolina offense stuck in the mud through four games. Now this young staff must find ways to build momentum before this season gets away from them.

Growing Pains

Luke Doty made just his third career start this past weekend. He has yet to win, but most of the blame is not on his shoulders. The sophomore signal-caller has shown some flashes of his ability in the past two contests. He has also shown his inexperience at times and is still working his way back to full health from a foot injury. His running ability has yet to help this team as he gets backs to full speed. Doty has played solid overall. He has missed some open receivers at times and is still getting his timing down in regards to getting rid of the ball. Each of those skills should improve as he plays more snaps. When he has had time to throw the ball, he has shown marked improvement in his mechanics and accuracy. Josh Vann and Jalen Brooks have both made big strides as his main targets.

Uneven Line

One of the main issues through the first third of the season is the play along the line of scrimmage. The offensive line was once again said to be a strength of this team heading into 2021. That has not panned out so far. Missed assignments and a lack of push have both been glaring for this unit. The South Carolina offense will not function at a high at any point this season if those two things don’t improve greatly. The coaches are trying to find the correct fit, but it hasn’t worked yet. The right side of the line is set with veterans Jonathan Gywnn and Dylan Wonnum.

It has been the left side where most of the issues lie. There have been four guys rotating in the left guard and tackle spots. None of them have shown the consistency needed to perform at a high level.  While the lack of push in the run game and the occasional lost one on one battles are not ideal, it is the mental mistakes that are crippling this offense. Penalties like false starts and holding have been far too prevalent. The biggest issue is the communication errors leading to free rushers attacking the quarterback or ball carrier. The line must get its act together if the South Carolina offense hopes to improve as the season progresses.

Player Rotation

The other puzzling thing about this team’s struggles is the player rotation. Having four quality tailbacks should be a positive, but when you can’t sustain drives it is hard to get guys involved. Juju McDowell did have a touch in the Georgia game but has been the second-leading rusher in each of the other three contests. Zaquandre White still leads the team in rushing yards despite not seeing much of the ball since the season opener. He did not have a touch in the loss to Kentucky. Kevin Harris was last year’s leading rusher in the SEC but has yet to get on track in 2021.

The lack of sustained possessions and long drives by the South Carolina offense makes it increasingly difficult to get the playmakers they do have involved. While they have all shown flashes, none of the four tailbacks have been able to really get going. Some of that is due to the poor line play. However, some of the blame lies with the ball carriers. They have missed some holes while not making defenders miss often enough. There have also been some letdowns in pass blocking.

Turn it Around

The next three games are all winnable for the Gamecocks. That makes them extremely crucial for the success of this season. Next up is a visit from Troy. While the talent edge goes to the SEC team in this match-up, the Trojans cannot be overlooked. These teams mirror each other through the first month of the season. Troy also sits at 2-2 and has played well enough on defense to be better than that. Their issue is much like the Gamecocks, they aren’t scoring enough. South Carolina will need to clean up a lot of its issues on the offensive side of the ball if they want to avoid an upset this Saturday.

Beamer’s team needs to come out this weekend focused and ready to make a statement. The vanilla first-half offensive game plan must be thrown out the window. This team wants to establish the run game because of the talent in the backfield. However, they may have to open up the passing game first in order to counteract their opponent’s aggression in stopping the run. Time to take the reigns off of Doty and let him attack with his arm. If they can’t find a way to move the ball more consistently, things could spiral in a bad direction quickly.

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